Cuban sugar industry plays catch-up as first mills open
The first of 54 Cuban sugar mills open this week as the industry aims to recover its former output of 1.9 million tonnes of raw sugar, provincial media reported, after a disastrous 2015-2016 harvest of 1.5 million tonnes to 1.6 million tonnes. “The 2016-2017 harvest will begin in Matanzas with the Jesus Rabi sugar mill this Tuesday,” said the province’s Communist Party weekly, Giron.
State-run national television said on Sunday that another mill would open later in the week in a neighbouring province, with 11 grinding by December and most of the rest by January. The harvest is scheduled to close in April. State-run sugar monopoly AZCUBA has said nothing about its plans, nor has it provided a provincial breakdown of last year’s output.
Nevertheless, eight of 13 sugar-producing provinces have announced forecasts, picked up by area media, which when compared with similar reports during the previous harvest indicate they hope to produce a combined 1.38 million tonnes of raw sugar, up from an estimated 1.1 million the previous season.
The provinces of Artemisa, Mayabeque, Las Tunas, Holguin and Granma, with a potential output estimated by Reuters at around 600,000 tonnes, have not reported their plans. The 2015-2016 harvest was plagued by drought and then unseasonable rainfall caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon. This harvest’s crop has benefited from improved weather across most of the country, although drought conditions persist in a few provinces such as Ciego de Avila, a major producer.